Accused in tahfiz fire ordered to enter defence, another acquitted

A total of 23 people were killed in a fire at the hostel of Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah. (File pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The court today ordered one of the teenagers charged with murder over the death of 23 people in a fire at Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah here almost three years ago to enter his defence.

Judge Azman Abdullah made the ruling after finding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case against the boy, who was 16, when the incident happened in 2017.

However, Azman acquitted and discharged another teenager without calling for his defence.

They were jointly charged with murdering and causing the death of the 23 inmates at the tahfiz centre at Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat, Wangsa Maju here, between 4.15 am and 6.45 am on Sept 14, 2017.

They were charged with 23 counts of murder each, framed under Section 302 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same law, which provides the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

However, Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001 states that a death sentence shall not be pronounced or recorded against a person convicted of an offence if the child is under the age of 18, and in lieu of the death sentence, as provided under Section 97 (2) of the same law, the court shall order the person to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Section 94 of the same law also empowers the court to order the parents or guardians of the child offender to pay a fine or compensation.

The prosecution was conducted by deputy public prosecutor Julia Ibrahim while lawyer Haijan Omar represented the accused.

Those killed in the tragedy were 21 students and two teachers who were trapped on the third floor of the hostel at the religious school.